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August 18, 2021

GHTC delivered the following statement on August 18, 2021 at a US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stakeholder listening session on the member state working group on strengthening the World Health Organization’s (WHO) preparedness and response to health emergencies:

The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback to the US government to inform the Member State Working Group on strengthening the World Health Organization’s (WHO) preparedness and response to health emergencies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that there are severe gaps in global health security preparedness across prevention, detection, and response. In particular, the global community has been slow to build—and adequately resource—coordinated mechanisms to develop and deploy the medical countermeasures needed to combat potential health emergencies. No global framework currently exists for assessing and strengthening the capacity of countries to develop, approve, manufacture, and deploy vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and other health technologies—despite the importance of these tools in mitigating emerging health threats.

As deliberations over WHO reform continue, we urge the United States to take the following actions:

  1. Prioritize research and development (R&D) capacity strengthening as part of the ongoing International Health Regulations (IHR) implementation discussions. The IHR currently make no mention of research coordination; rapid sharing of genetic information and samples of pathogens of concern; or development of, and equitable access to, medical countermeasures and other innovations needed during emergencies. The IHR framework must include R&D as a central pillar of preparedness.
  2. We encourage the United States to continue to work with WHO and other global partners to establish regional manufacturing capacities, including, but not limited to, building on the progress made by the Joint US-EU COVID Manufacturing and Supply Chain Taskforce, the COVAX Supply Chain and Manufacturing Taskforce, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and WHO’s recent establishment of an mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa. It is vital to build on these initiatives to further expand the capacity of low- and middle-income countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines and increase global access to bring the pandemic under control as well as address other emerging and enduring health threats.
  3. As highlighted in the recent Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response report, a pandemic framework convention could address gaps in the international response, clarify responsibilities between states and international organizations, and help coordinate R&D to facilitate the sharing of scientific findings and accelerate the development of, and equitable access to, quality-assured and accessible health technologies. As negotiations continue for the special session of the World Health Assembly to consider developing a WHO convention on pandemic preparedness and response in November, we urge the United States to support mechanisms for financing, R&D capacity strengthening, and technology transfer to be enshrined in the framework.